Sunday, November 6, 2011

a new threshhold

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rebuilding the door frame and installing a NEW (sigh) door

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Opening some doors

I've been busy with paying work for the last couple of months.  We have been plugging away at cleaning out the debris left by the previous owners.  At times it felt like an archeological investigation.  We found some Cadillac hubcaps in the garage, some motorcycle parts (and a set of new spark plugs that will fit my truck).

But this weekend we took on a needed project:  the doors for the house.  They were left unlocked when the house was abandoned, and had not been maintained well over the years.  The front entry door was a wood 6-panel, painted white, with veneer coming off at the bottom and the substrate under the veneer disintegrating.  The back door was wood with fifteen glass panes.  It had swelled from the moisture coming up the basement steps and could not be closed; I had put a hasp and padlock on it to keep it almost closed.  In addition, since this back door faces west (the direction our weather comes from) the wood sill at the bottom was rotting away, and the lower door trim with it.

For reasons of energy efficiency and security, this is one area where we did buy new stuff.  I bought insulated steel pre-hung doors from Lowe's.  They are bored for both doorknob and deadbolt, and have a steel plate on the wall side of the door frame to reinforce that area; the deadbolt goes through a hole in the steel plate, besides the strike plate supplied with the lock on the door side of the frame.  If someone tries to kick in the door, the plate is the full width of the frame, and can hold the door even if the wood of the frame splits.

On a house this age, I was not sure how much I would have to do to replace the doors.  On some older houses, I have seen rough openings that were made tight to the door frame, rather than oversized and shimmed to fit.  I have seen some where the opening was half an inch or so too short for a modern door unit, and had to cut the space I needed out of the header (the crosspiece at the top of the opening, usually a pair of two-by-fours set in upright between the studs).  I've even had one where I had to take the pre-hung door apart, cut a few inches off the bottom, then take the threshhold off the frame, cut the frame down and put it back together.

This time was not as bad as it could have been.  These door openings had been framed both wide and high.  I ended up adding some wood on each side to fill in the space so that I could shim the doors plumb, then used 3-1/2" screws, countersunk, to hold the door to the framing; a pair of screws at each hinge, then pairs on the opposite side to match.  Once the doors were in, I installed new doorknobs and deadbolts, then re-worked the outside trim between the door frame and the brick exterior.  Inside trim will wait until we are done with the interior wall finish.

Copperhead's turn...
It is really heart breaking to have to replace beautiful old doors with cold, hard, ugly, white steel doors. Redneck worries about someone breaking in, bad weather causing even more damage to the floors and one day the door just falling off it's hinges - rightly so.  Someone stole the storm door off the front - probably got a little from the salvage yard to keep up his habits, so the door was unprotected for a long time. I had visions of making something out of it. Maybe cut the top off and do something one day but it fell apart and Redneck had to pick up little pieces from the yard once he took it out. The back door is in a little better shape - kind of cool with 15 glass panes. I bet it would be fun to put pictures behind the glass. Redneck, it is nice to actually have a key to open those doors - beats having to unscrew them every time.

We've been sorting out trash, electronics, house hold chemicals, stuff Goodwill might like and stuff to re-purpose or reuse later on. I have no idea what to make out of a set of old Caddy hub caps... Maybe CL? There were brake shoes and spark plugs and all sorts of automotive chemicals all mixed together in piles in the garage. We've hauled some stuff to the recycle place and other stuff has gone in the homeless shelter (aka: a big garbage rationing can supplied by the city) We are so privileged - we get to put out one full garbage can of stuff every week. Supposedly tomorrow we can put out extra stuff - we'll see if they actually take it or leave it to be picked up and put in the can next week - I really don't get it - all of it goes to the same place sooner or later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

THE Bucket List?

This house has been on hold for a while and the hold will continue awhile. The Redneck has been doing some paying work. The guys both got jobs. I had poison ivy or maybe Virginia Creeper rash all summer. Lately we have been clearing out some more trash. We took several loads to the dump. We put out trash every week in our Indianapolis trash ration can (We get one can a week) We have taken water logged electronics to a recycle place. Saturday we took a big load of house and garage chemicals and dead florescent tubes to the recycle place & put out more trash. I think we have spent about 4 days burning trash from the basement. There is STILL trash. The attic rooms have been pretty much cleared out. There are 2 boxes of coat hangers still there. I haven't cleaned up there yet. The shoes and clothes went to Goodwill. The local junk man came and got the refrigerators - he even hauled off the one that had been in the flooded basement. We still have a huge over growth of weeds. We cut them all down in July - got PI rash (or what ever) and the weeds grew back before we got the rashes gone. There are trees growing in the basement window wells. We cut them down to 1 ft in July - they are over 6 ft tall again. Mulberry. Someone was a gardener. There are lots of peony plants, other bulbs, azalea, butter fly weeds, day lilies, and naked ladies among others. I am wanting to post pictures when we get the place cleaned out more. We have also been making a bucket list. So far the short list is clean out junk... get rid of weeds... anything beyond that is dreams at this point. When we get some more clean up done I'll make some more pictures.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things We Learned About the House

We are beginning to find out some things about the history of the house.  We could not spend time looking around the place--legally we could not even enter it until our deed came through--this is definitely not like buying a house through a Realtor.

One thing we already knew was that the neighborhood was originally built somewhere around the late 1940s to early 1950s, and was unincorporated area at the time.  These houses were built with septic systems and cisterns at the start; sometime in the 1960s the city annexed the area and extended water and sewer lines.  So this house has a spot in the back of the basement where the old drain and water pipes came through the wall and are now cut off, and later drain and water lines going out to the front.

After the water and sewer lines the house got some more remodeling.  The half bath on the first floor is unusual in a house of this age; it was likely added when the drains were reworked to tie into the sewer.  And it seems likely that the garage was built after the sewer came in.  There is a small room, at one time used for laundry, between the house and the garage, with a door to the front yard and a concrete area between the front of the house and the front of the garage.  That concrete is over the place where house drain goes into the wall on its way to the sewer, so it was likely made later.  Two-car garages were not common in 1950, either; a 1960s date fits that better as well.

The house has had at least three heating systems in its past, as well.  One corner of the basement, in the front at the garage end, was walled off with concrete block to make a coal cellar.  There is an opening high on the wall where the coal chute was, now bricked over.  This area was later outfitted with shelves for storage, but when we tore out the door and its 2x8 framing, we found bits of coal (2 to 3 cups worth) between the frame and the blocks.  Now that the floor is cleaned up, the spot where the old coal furnace sat is visible; the concrete is rougher at that place.  There are also places where the sheet metal is still in place from old air-return ductwork, and some of the grilles in the floor are still there under the carpets.  This was most likely a gravity-type furnace without any blower.

The second heating system was hot water.  The old gas boiler is still there, and the rooms upstairs have the baseboard radiators that came into use around the '60s, not the cast-iron radiators of older houses.  These baseboard radiators were connected with copper pipe.  (The original house plumbing is galvanized pipe, the earlier system--copper pipe began displacing galvanized around the late '50s and early '60s, from what I have learned.)  My guess is that the gas pipes came into the neighborhood with the water and sewer lines.

The last heating system, sitting next to the old boiler, is a gas furnace/air conditioning unit.  It is not a high-efficiency model because it vents into the old chimney, not through plastic pipe out the wall.  The outdoor AC coils and even the indoor coil were stolen while the house sat empty over the last few years.  The ductwork for this furnace was the newer insulated fiberglass and plastic that has been around since the late 1980s.  (This did not look that old, however).  I did pull all of that ducting out, because some of it picked up moisture from the flooding, and  it was in the way for cleaning out the mold.

This is some of what we have learned so far.  We may find other things out as the work progresses.

One Milestone Reached

Well, we're done working on the basement for a while.  The water is pumped out, a new sump pump is installed and working.  The junk left in the basement is hauled out to the dump, and the drywall and paneling on the living room side are removed, down to the block walls.  And now I have finished the mold cleanup.  This was a big issue; after three years of water in the basement, there was mold on a lot of the floor joists and some of the subfloor for the floor above.

Searching the Internet, I found this site--  I had seen a reference on a mold remediation contractor's site about using a borax solution.  But Mold Control on a Budget actually gives the formula, and how to follow up.  The site owner is not a contractor, but an inspector specializing in mold work.

Anyway, I vacuumed the heavy mold, mostly yellow, some cottony white stuff off with a HEPA wet/dry vac, then scrubbed with the borax solution.  In corners, around ductwork and electrical boxes and other hard-to-get-at places I sprayed the surface down with borax solution in a trigger spray bottle.

Why borax and not bleach?  The story is that bleach only works on some molds, and works best on hard, non-porous surfaces like ceramic or laminate.  The chlorine evaporates before it can soak into unfinished wood.  The borax (and for the record, this is the old 20 Mule Team powder from the laundry soap section at Wal-Mart) soaks in better, and any borax residue left will keep mold from returning.  I have used most of three boxes so far and have a little left for touchup.

There is one more mold strategy that we may consider for the long run, called "encapsulation."  This involves sealing moldy areas in a paint-like coating.  And while there are such coatings available, the "Budget" site says old-fashioned whitewash will work--the lime in whitewash is also used in some of the commercial coatings, because it kills mold.  So at some point, after the new dehumidifier has dried things out, I may be doing a Tom Sawyer job on the floor joists.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Well, I figured out I had to save the pictures different than I was in the past. SO today I'm making up for lost time. I shot pictures of the two bedrooms and the pink under the eaves bathroom.


The shades are still pulled and there is no electric yet. I just thought people might like to see what we found in the house. DH and Black Drake with junk in the living room. There is a bedroom on the first floor but it is hard to get the full effect in a picture. Inside the bedroom is a peely paint bathroom.

The basement is still a bit murky and morbid - and there is no picture of the stink - you just have to imagine. It isn't perfectly clean but it is a FAR CRY from where it was...
We have offered Black Drake the opportunity to cash in on the junk. I'm not sure he knows what to make of it though. I'm sure he's open for suggestions. I already suggested making a lamp out of that cool blender. I wonder how much he should charge for rusty old metal chairs? How about a heater?


I Thought I would attempt to put some pictures of the kitchen on here. We have some old 1950's metal cabinets and an old metal sink with built in drain boards. The faucet is very unique. Lots of trash. Cans of food laying around. There is some tile on the walls but someone painted it. Paint peeling off walls.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

trash or treasure


When we first bought the blue house in the tax sale we were talking with our friends at length about the tax sale and how we found it - how the tax sale worked - how we searched to see that it didn't have a bunch of liens - how many houses were sold, etc. Their young adult sons were in on the conversation.... Forward to a couple weeks ago. I found a video that impressed me so I forwarded it to my friends.
They searched some more, found more videos and a web site
Then they shyly asked if they could volunteer work for Phil and in exchange learn some skills. Wow! That was brave! What a place to start - they have battled tall weeds just to get in the place. muck. water. trash. stink. poison ivy. hot sticky weather. mosquitoes. and so on.
I've been very impressed with the work they have done so far. They have stuck with it through all the worst yucky muck and mess and horrid smells so far. That's right they keep showing up! I'm impressed Dark Grif and Black Drake!!! I hope this basement will be the dirtiest job you see in this project. There is nowhere to go but cleaner now is there?

We've pumped all the water out

Some photos of the mess:  top three, a pile of the clothing and trash from the basement, we're trying to get it dry enough to put in the trash, later Postmodern Redneck and his helper Blackdrake, and the bottom are stuff still to be cleared out

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My Turn

Thought I'd take the chance to put a few words in.
Copperhead, my wife, wrote the first post, then we tried to upload some photos.  I have not done this before, and she's never even blogged before, so it has been an interesting afternoon.  We have used computers for years, but are not experts on all of it.  I sometimes describe myself  as "semi-computer literate."

Anyway, after all the waiting on the county, we have finally started on this house.  We have rehabbed houses before, but never one quite like this one.  Even a foreclosed house gets cleaned out before it's put on the market.  This house was just as the people left it, with clothing, books, newspapers, shoes, coat hangers, you name it, all over the floor.  The basement was even worse than the upper two floors as far as stuff; and then once the power was turned off for non-payment, the sump pump quit working.  Judging by the walls, the water never got above three feet deep, but that was enough to ruin all the bags of clothing stored under the steps, the books, the videocassettes, and everything else the last occupants left below that level.

In spite of the mess, the house does have potential  It seems to be well constructed, the layout is not bad.  Most houses that age (circa 1950) have only one bath; this one has a half-bath on the first floor as well.  The roof looks to be in fairly good condition; windows are original and will likely need to be replaced.

We have pumped the water out of the basement, got a sump pump working to keep it out.  Most of the sodden stuff is removed now, the rest will be out soon.  The paneling and drywall on one side of the basement is mostly removed, just the ceiling to take down.  Then we need to scrub the moldy framing and get it dried out.  Then we can start cleaning out the rest of the house.

July 2011 - weeds sure do like this house!!!

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April 2010

March 2010
The house was empty and right next door. So my daughter and I asked a lot of questions at the Marion County Court House. We got a lot of run around and with 4 small children in tow it was a task... I did resort to bribery at one point - gum ball machines are wonderful!!! We found out the house was mortgaged for more than it is worth ($80,000) and then abandoned but no other liens. We got on the county treasurers website to see how much back taxes were. The house is a fairly nice house (it does sit next to a very Ugly Little Cottage... ours) So we searched how to buy a house in the tax auction. You have to have enough money on had at the auction to pay for what ever the winning bid comes to. It cannot be cash. The tax auction was a wonder to behold. It was quite an experience I will say that. If you want to bid you go to a bank and get a cashiers check for a deposit - I forget how much that was. Then you get a check from the bank for the minimum bid minus the deposit. Then you get additional checks for $100 or maybe $1000 so you have enough if you have to bid up. (We got ours for the asking amount.) Before they have the auction you go in and give them the deposit check from the bank. Then they give you a bid number. You sit and wait for the number of the house you are wanting to come up on a big screen. They post 20 or so at a time. If someone wants to bid on a house they hold up the house's number and the bidding starts. Some get quite a bit of action some sell for the asking price. It took a day and a half before ours came up. There were maybe 10,000 houses in the auction that lasted two days in Indianapolis. Most of them went for the minimum bid. So we won the bid. Now the bank or the home owner has one year to redeem the house. If they redeem it they have to pay us 10% interest in the first 6 months. Then they have to pay 15% interest in the second 6 months. We are not allowed to go in the property until we have the title. So we wait. The end of March we can apply for a title. Then we can go in and repair the damage and maybe have a decent house for not much money and an Ugly Little Cottage with two garages and a very nice back yard next door.

One long year of waiting. We waited and we waited and we waited...

APRIL 1, 2011 and this is no joke.
OK at long & last.... drum roll... the tax house is ours! We just found out today. Nobody had redeemed it. As soon as the deed comes we can go in it. That should be sometime in June! Two more months of waiting and wondering... I wonder what scary stuff is in the refrigerator? Is it moldy or worse is it NOT moldy? I wonder if the old metal kitchen cabinets are any good. Do the drawers work - how much of it is rusted out. (We did peek in the windows you know) Can the cabinets be cleaned & painted. Would a retro kitchen be cool to live with? I wonder what kind of shape the hardwood floors are in under that carpet in the rest of the house. I wonder how much damage the water in the basement has caused. I'm sure it needs a furnace if it even has one. The air conditioner is long gone. I wonder how much we have to gut? I wonder what this is going to cost? How long will it take to get it livable? What have we done? Are we crazy?

How about 'NOT MUCH IS NEW' for a blog title?
Well we know it is coming but we have 60 days +- to wait for the deed to the tax house. Meanwhile we WAIT and DREAM...
We are hoping to fix up the tax house using as much used or recycled parts as possible. There will of course be some new stuff. Like doors - it is very hard to get a good fit with used doors. Having a door that fits keeps the heat in. Of course we will re-purpose the old wooden doors. Kitchen cabinets & bathroom fixtures can be somewhat used/reused or use cast offs, repaired or re-purposed items. hopefully hard wood under the carpet can get refinished if needed and some new varnish put on. Yeah we will buy paint - probably mis-tint paint though. We might have to buy drywall if the walls are in bad shape. I have been collecting scraps and excess tiles to put somewhere - but I'll have to buy mortar and grout. I'm pretty sure we'll have to get a new furnace and water heater. We also don't know if the house has any insulation. We don't know if the drywall has holes. We do know what ever is in the finished basement has to be thrown away - water damage is so not good.

FAST FORWARD 4th of July, 2011
well we FINALLY got our tax deed it really is our house... I probably should call this one from here on out the house of horrors.... eye roll. The basement is full of stuff and it is held together by mucky water.

July 11, 2011
Postmodern Red Neck and some friends pumped water out of the basement.
Then we found out how much stuff was being 'stored' in the basement... They have spent the past week shoveling, bagging and hauling unidentified floating objects - and some not so floating. I've taken pictures but there is NO WAY to document stink. You just had to be there to get the full effect.